First day of Stage 5 ride completed – 103 miles covered in 7h 23 mins riding time – so a full day at the office. And I needed to use the mechanics in the support crew to fix my bike. At to top it all off, the last two hours of the ride were into a terrible headwind, which picked up in strength with thunderstorms that swept through central France. So quite a baptism to Stage 5 of the Cycle Slam.
The day started early with a 5.30am alarm call (it wasn’t even light) and we assembled outside the hotel and departed in group order. My group of 12 was led by core rider Dave Butler and included Mr and Mrs Flintoff. The first problem struck just an hour into the ride when the bolt connecting the rear brake caliper to the bike became disconnected. Arrangements were made to meet the mechanic support crew at the first scheduled stop – and problem was duly fixed. Thanks guys – and I had only had the bike serviced the week before the event. Morale of the tale should have gone to Halfords!
So far the weather had been dry, but that quickly changed as the rain showers moved in and the temperature dropped. Much more like ‘April showers’ than France in May would normally expect. But there was much worse to come. During the afternoon the weather turned much for the worse – thunderstorms, hail backed up a string northerly wind. And you guessed it, our direction of travelling was north so we were travelling straight into a headwind. The group of riders, all evenly matched and with excellent biking skills, starting riding much more tightly as a group, with different people taking it in turn at the front to shelter those behind. Freddie Flintoff also had the novel idea of giving an interview to the Discovery Channel TV crew who are covering the Slam, whilst cycling along, being sheltered by the van. Smart thinking!
With some relief we pulled into the town square in Chalons – a good day’s riding at a surprsingly good tempo given the conditions.
Note my real need to start stretching as soon as I got off the bike!
Oh and did I mention the rain?